Toppling Tillerson

Now that President Trump has knocked off Rex Tillerson, perhaps it’s time to have a serious conversation about the structure of the federal government. President Trump on Tuesday named CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace the departing secretary of state. But will this personnel change be sufficient to correct what ails this administration?

Since taking office, Trump—who ran as the greatest outsider in recent electoral history—has suffered a series of false starts, due in large part to the people he hired to run his government. With the exception of a small handful of advisers, virtually everyone at the top and mid-levels of the government are scions of the establishment. In other words, most of them are creatures of the swamp.

Some Trump supporters outside of Washington, D.C., have been wondering how the swamp might be drained if the people running the government are the same old, tired Clinton, Bush, Obama, and NeverTrump retreads?

Even when Trump brought in new faces—such as Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil CEO—it turned out their views did not diverge significantly from those of the establishment. Thus, Trump never got the boost he needed to “drain the swamp” in an effective, lasting way. With Tillerson, came a retinue of “NeverTrump” George W. Bush loyalists, like Margaret Peterlin and Brian Hook. It was well known that Tillerson relied heavily on Peterlin and Hook, who became increasingly powerful as they refused to hire any new people to fill the posts that career diplomats and Obama appointees had vacated in 2017.

In an effort to keep their circle small, Tillerson’s team presided over the greatest exodus of talent from the State Department in recent history. Over the months, members on both sides of the political divide have voiced concern over the growing capabilities gap formed under Tillerson’s (lack of) leadership.

What’s more, Tillerson and Trump didn’t see eye-to-eye on much of anything. It’s strange and somewhat maddening to think how or why Trump opted to give Tillerson the chief diplomat’s role. Unfortunately, though, that decision has led us to a place where the most important institution for advancing U.S. foreign policy is effectively a dead agency. With a massive brain drain from the Foreign Service; internal squabbling among those few who remain; and excessive turf-protecting from the political appointees at the top, it’s a surprise that Foggy Bottom hasn’t simply shut its doors and called it a day.

Think about it: what has the State Department done right since Trump took office? Apparently, the bureaucracy is sitting on $120 billion earmarked for cyber defense heading into the 2018 midterm elections. It took Tillerson months to make a trip to Africa, where the United States has many interests. Neither he nor the president appeared to be on the same page ever when it came to critical issues such as the North Korean nuclear program, the Iran deal, or how to handle Russia.

Tillerson and Trump appeared to spend more time sniping at each other in public than they spent actually governing. And, when it came to governing, the president completely ignored the input of Tillerson and the State Department.

Since he announced his bid for the presidency in 2015, Donald Trump has kept a tight circle around him. He has generally kept his own counsel, enraging many “experts.” Trump also waged the most unorthodox presidential campaign in modern history—cobbling together an unlikely coalition of voters (many of whom were Democrats), bucking Republican orthodoxy, and dazzling the self-appointed gatekeepers in the Democratic Party’s kept media. The president has managed to outwit and outmatch his rivals at almost every turn. A leader like that needs equally unorthodox people working for him, running the government’s day-to-day operations.

But so far, Trump hasn’t had that. It’s nice to see the president finally taking charge of his wayward personnel.

The president’s America First agenda has been undermined at every step by the incompetence and unoriginality of the majority of his advisers. Recently, Trump has been shedding high-profile figures from his administration. Tillerson likely won’t be the last. While the staff changes have garnered negative press, the results have worked out fairly well from a policy standpoint.

Trump circumvented his own government and announced the tariffs on steel and aluminum. While I remain worried that the president might spark a trade war with allies that we need to compete with China, the fact is that several countries have expressed a willingness to work with America on better trade deals. In foreign policy, Trump announced one of the greatest breakthroughs with North Korea in decades—and Tillerson was unaware.

Maybe it’s time to just let the president do his own thing. Clearly, Trump is uncomfortable deferring too much to his advisers. This is made doubly problematic, because much of the government is opposed to Trump’s presidency and actively works to undermine his orders. During the campaign, Trump’s small cadre of campaign advisers would say “let Trump be Trump.” Yet since taking office, top administration officials have done everything in their power to hem in the president—despite Trump’s winning instincts and the desires of Trump’s base of supporters.

Referring to the firing of Tillerson, President Trump said, “I’m really at a point where we’re getting very close to having the Cabinet and other things that I want.” Yes, but it’s more than a year into his presidency. How sad that it took this long. And, by the way, there are countless Trump nominees that are being held up by the Republican-controlled Congress because these nominees will not conform to the ways of the swamp.

Mike Pompeo is walking into a mess at the State Department, but he might be able to rebuild the ailing place from the ground up. Given Pompeo’s status as the “Trump Whisperer,” American foreign policy might start to align better with the president’s inclinations—and, therefore, with those of the people who elected him, rather than with the will of a handful of unelected bureaucrats.

Tillerson’s removal is a huge win for President Trump’s America First program.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

About Brandon J. Weichert

Brandon J. Weichert is a geopolitical analyst who manages The Weichert Report. He is a contributing editor at American Greatness and a contributor at The American Spectator . His forthcoming book, Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower is due out from Republic Book Publishers in 2020. His writings on national security have appeared in Real Clear Politics and he has been featured on the BBC and CBS News. Follow him on Twitter at @WeTheBrandon.

Want news updates?

Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.

29 responses to “Toppling Tillerson

    • It took a year to address Tillerson and the Goldman guy. I would give him another year or two to figure out how to get rid of the people he himself appointed that were too stupid (Sessions) or corrupt (Rosenstein, Comey, et. al.) to not sick a special prosecutor on their fellow Republican boss. With the same selector and selection criteria the question though is will his next pick be any better. He should have chosen a really smart conservative lawyer like his own lawyer Jay Sekulow or Joseph diGenova for AG, but I digress.

      I like Larry Kudlow, at least when he is straight , but do Trump’s voters and pom pom girls know that Kudlow is a drug addict. I forget whether his fav is crack or heroin. Will that guy pass a White House security clearance? God help us. I guess I can’t blame Trump though. What the hell does he know about free market economics. I think he likes Larry because he says nice things about Trump on MSNBC. Free market loving Larry has even moderated his views on tariffs lately, surprise, surprise. Trump, like his voters, gets all of his governing,economic and political wisdom from watching TV.

  • Choosing Trump over Cruz was a dumb move. Tillerson was a predictable establishment Putin buddy statist disaster. The year wasted with Tillerson was 100% Trump’s fault. That Republican’s nominated Trump who had litterally no knowledge or philosophy of governing a republic, is 100% the fault of the people that elected who should have known better, but instead were just as dumb as Trump. Trump has done a few good conservative things but this can be credited not to his voters intelligence, but to luck just like a broken clock is right twice a day.

    How does one explain how Trump made Mueller sycophant Rod Rosenstein deputy attorney general who then hired the highly partisian Mueller as a special prosecutor with an unlimited budget to go after Trump. Lack of knowledge of what he was doing is the only answer. Thanks Trump over Cruz voters.

    • I actually blame candidates for their losses. That seems to be the most efficient way forward. Everything else, while it may impact elections, is just background noise. The reason that Cruz or any of the other hacks who ran against Trump in 2016 lost is because they–for whatever reason–did not resonate with the voters. It’s funny: when Tillerson was nominated, the MSM (and NeverTrumpkins) fixated on Tillerson’s business ties with Russia as proof that Trump was a Manchurian Candidate. Now that Trump fired Tillerson, the NeverTrumpkins take that as proof-positive that Trump is a Manchurian Candidate. There is no reason when it comes to Trump Derangement Syndrome. Trump has done some monumental things. According to Heritage, he’s been more successful in implementing a conservative governing agenda than even Ronaldus Magnus was. It’s more than “broken clock” fallacy. Irrespective of Trump’s governing style or philosophy, he intuitively knows what most Americans a) want and, b) why they voted for him (linked to reason “a”). He acts accordingly. Trump is the battering ram to get conservative ideas into legislation and policy. By the way, he’s our last chance before we lose the country due to demographics. As for Trump making Rosenstein the deputy AG: that was entirely the result of two connected things: Trump wanted to make nice with the Deep State, believing that once he won everyone would nominally unite on the Right, and try to do what was best. Second, Jeff Sessions WANTED Rosenstein to stay on. That’s right, super-duper, one, true conservative Sessions–the country’s first non-attorney-general-attorney-general–clearly believed Rosenstein would make a great AG (to investigate his own boss).

      #KAG

      • I 100% agree that Trump resonated with his voters in the primary. They were as dumb and as uninformed about free market economic and conservative political philosophy and made of the same material as Trump, thus the resonance. It also hurt Cruz that the main source of political news in America for Republican voters, i.e, Fox News, gave Trump 20 times more coverage than Cruz. That of course kept any of Trump’s uninformed voters from learning about Cruz and his exceptional history. They likely believed the outrageous blatant lies promoted by Trump and his good friend owner of the National Inquirer that Cruz’s dad was involved in the Kenned assassination and that Cruz cheated on his wife. Fox of course reported it over and over but failed to condemn Trump for spreading it. They made it a he said she said item in their insane so called “fair and balanced” presentation by the typical airhead blonde.

        Despite all of the above the brilliant, experienced, principled and true Reagen like constitutional conservative Cruz who was the only one brave enough to oppose the ethanol boondoggle in Iowa the only one to challenge the swamp leaders McConnell and Boehner (now Ryan) and did not tell blatant lies, but despite aol of the above, still came in 2nd.

        Having said the above, I wish Trump well, voted for him when the only choice left was Hillary, and even praise him when he makes the rare correct conservative move. Sadly, I think Cruz was the only chance to save the republic. Trump does not even mention the out of control budget and money printing, let alone seem to have a position on it. That alone is going to soon end our country as we use to know it, if his eratic treatment of soon to be nuke armed Iran and NK does not do it first. I certainly hope that last item is one of the rare things he gets right. Getting rid of Tillerson was a good move, but it is maddening that Trump chose him in the first place and wasted a quarter of his first term with Tillerson. Such is the result of having a leader of the free world with no internal governing political philosophy other than “winning”, which makes him incapable of picking people to staff his administration who will save and restore our formerly free constitutional republic.

      • There is no amount of talcum powder in the world that can deal with this amount of diaper rash.

      • There is no amount of information that can make you smart. You are stuck on stupid.

      • And Hillary would’ve kicked Ted’s ass. I hate to say it, but it’s true.

      • Clearly, since the writer dismisses Cruz as a “hack” we can dismiss Brandon Weichert as a “hack”. Fair is fair. Weichert probably believes Cruz father killed JFK, because Trump said so.

      • You may call me whatever you wish. It doesn’t negate the fact that Trump is THE ONLY Republican candidate who could have won. Somewhere along the lines the GOP became heartless and did little to fight that perception among the electorate. For the record, I have never once said I believe Cruz’s father killed JFK. That would be crazy (and I don’t believe in that conspiracy stuff anyway). It’s as crazy as believing that Trump is a Manchurian Candidate.

        -The Hack

      • You can call the very best that the Republican party has to offer in terms of mind, character and wisdom – you can call that person a “hack”. It tells us more about you than the person you are describing.

      • ^^I can see I triggered you. If Jeb Bush was the “very best” the GOP had to offer “in terms of mind, character and wisdom” or even Ted Cruz, for that matter, then, frankly, KentRamsay, we can do better. And, yes, I despise politicians. Thanks for the read. Have a nice day.

        -TheVeryTerribleHack

      • You referred to Ted Cruz as a “hack”. That makes you an imbecile.

      • Correct. Ted Cruz is a “swamp creature”. How long has he been in government? Has he held a job outside government this century?

      • And Trump is a happy adulterer who made his money by going bankrupt with the funds his daddy gave him and who now entertains America by issuing jackass tweets all day long. He spends 50% of his day hiring only the best people for every single job. The other half of his day he spends mocking the people he hired, firing them by tweet and looking for new “globalists’ to take their place.

      • Brandon, don’t worry about the trolls. Ted Cruz was an uninspiring candidate. He was too extreme to win the GOP primary, yet his fans think he somehow was going to win a national election. They are so enamored of their own political position they forget to stop and think about what other people believe. You nailed it when you said the GOP lost its heart somewhere along the way. Trump may be no more than an idiot savant, but he ran circles around 16 Republican candidates that were supposed to have been the strongest team ever to take the field in a GOP primary, and he made them all look like hacks. This is not debate club, this is the real world. We need people who understand the real world and get things done. That’s why so many people voted for Trump and still support his agenda.
        Some people still have hurt feelings from the election. Most of us learned to move on. Heck, even Ted was big enough to get behind the party’s chosen candidate.

      • Yes, he did much innovation, like coming up with nicknames, like “Lyin’ Ted”. That from the man who said Ted Cruz father helped kill JFK. Our country is populated with degenerate leftists and now Republicans who take pride in their ignorance. So today they brag about tariff that are guaranteed to lose more American jobs than they protect, but still these rubes like the good feeling of screwing the Chinese, who are of course laughing, since we dont get any steel from China.

      • A tariff on something we don’t buy? Whoever writes these posts for you isn’t paying much attention, apparently.

      • He put the tariff on the whole world, except Canada and Mexico. You should read before you write.

      • Just in case you might read this as a reply related to your reading of the State Dept, which is all I follow: Keep your eye on Dr. A. Wess Mitchell, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs since Oct. 17, 2017: https://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/274754.htm
        After leading the team meeting ‘working group’ with Turkey on US relations, especially the YPG in Syria, on March 8-9, he suddenly flew to Pristina, Kosovo on March 12, then Skopje, Macedonia, wrapping up in Belgrade, Serbia on March 14, for the serious meetings in Athens and Nicosia through March 17. Turkish media is ginning up a NATO v NATO naval battle this week. Cyprus is the battleground, and Greece is the NATO ally under direct threat, in
        addition to being core to TeamTrump’s energy security for EU (totally un-reported in the US), at the expense of Russia and Turkey.

        I knew that Mitchell had been confirmed, and of his presence in Ankara with SecTillerson Feb 15-16. Due to the events with Tillerson March 11-13, I finally learned that Mitchell co-authored “The Godfather Doctrine: A Foreign Policy Parable” in 2009, where Tom is the Wilsonian,
        Sonny is the Neo-con, and Michael is the deft Realist.
        https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5938386-the-godfather-doctrine

        Sec Tillerson did a lot more than you noticed, like the African Ministerial with 37 foreign ministers on Nov. 17, highlighting the re-working of USAID’s POWERAfrica. Sec Perry was a big hit in Capetown at a meeting of African energy ministers. The conduct of foreign policy has been a TEAM effort since before Argentina’s Macri had his day in Houston on investment in Patagonia shale gas, before his WH meet on April 27, 2017. The Team includes VP Pence, which no one in media notices.

        America’s diplomatic news corp, especially the AP team of Matt Lee and Josh Lederman, and CNN, created most of the rumors that sabotaged Tillerson. Read the Dep’t Press Briefings. After Nov. 28, the reason why AFP became the serious news source. The State Dept budget cuts have been totally mis-reported. So much had been transferred from DoD to State , and it was being transferred back in 2017.

        In the end, he was too Wilsonian, trying to appease the U.S. Senate and foreign policy blob, but, it does look like his perceived softness on Qatar was too much for KSA-GCC-Egypt-Jordan. Mostly, you really need better ‘news’ sources, because the same diplomatic reporters who sabotaged Tillerson will double down with Pompeo.

      • Trump is the only person who has run for as much as a Congressmen, much less President, who has had the guts to flat out admit the media was their enemy and then run on that as part of his platform. That alone got him my vote and that of many others in his base support. Anyone who has attended a city council meeting and then read a newspaper account of that meeting knows how unscrupulous and biased all the press is. They are propaganda at its most disgusting. Trump is doing a great job just by making the fake news admit it is fake news.

  • Seems to be a distraction. Afrin and East Ghouta are going to fall in days and Trump is not helping the rebels. Both Nethanyahu and the Saudi King have visited Trump this month and Trump hasn’t budged so far.

  • Partial credit.

    Tillerson’s team has presided over the greatest exodus of Democrats from the State Department in recent history. And we are all better off for it.

    • this exodus was self determined, incomplete and insufficient. sadly, tillerson failed in two regards. one, he didnt accept the proforma resignation of every ambassador and assistant secretary, and above, in his first hour on the 7th floor. two, tillerson didnt open state’s books on hillary in his next hour. some, but not enough, current and former fsos, are conservative. the others would have followed tillerson if he had actually led.

  • The best way to know if Trump is being effective is to watch the Never Trump response to his appointments. The more they whine, the better Trump will be doing. The cult of the expert has ruled the DC swamp for generations which is how we got into this mess. Putting successful people who hate the departments they are running is the way to do that.

    The best way to drain the swamp is to break it up. Move the various Departments headquarters out of DC and into the country. Having all the government centered in DC has made it a mecca for ambition and corruption. No department should be headquartered in DC. Putting people who hate what their bureaucrats do is next best. Know it all bureaucrats who have never done anything real in their lives are the problem driving the mess. What Scott Pruitt is doing at EPA is a good example of what should be going on.

  • I feel like Mr. Weichert is lamenting that fact that ‘the swamp’ is the vast majority of the talent pool for positions in government. I’m not saying this is a good thing only that it’s the reality. The swampies are attracted to government, so they’re the one’s with ‘government experience’. It’s a little like complaining that you can’t find any accountants in the engineering department.

    Donald J. Trump is trying to perform a massive reorientation of government and that ‘government’ is not interested in being reoriented.

    My view is that Tillerson did the job he needed to do, and the changes in Saudi Arabia are an indication of what that job was and how well it was done.

    Now, the administration is ‘pivoting’ to North Korea. Trump needs someone at State with the experience with our intelligence and covert ops assets to deal with this shift in ‘diplomatic’ concentration.

    I think Mr. Weichart is blaming POTUS Trump for the fact that ‘the swamp’ does not want to change but are still the ones with the most experience in government and this puts POTUS between a rock and a hard place. If he picks ‘inexperienced’ people, then he will be criticized for that. If he picks ‘experienced’ people, they’ll have been part of ‘the swamp’.

Comments are closed.